By David Rich and Jared Finnegan - December 19, 2012
This article was originally posted on the WRI blog, Insights.
With the latest round of global climate negotiations at an end, many countries, states, and cities around the world are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through mitigation policies and goals. Decision-makers need to understand the emissions impacts associated with these initiatives in order to evaluate effectiveness, make sound decisions, and assess progress.
However, there is currently little consistency or transparency in how such analysis is done. WRI aims to address this situation through forthcoming Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol standards for mitigation accounting, which have recently been released for review.
The Need for Accounting Standards for Mitigation Policies and Goals
To date, no standardized approach has existed for quantifying the GHG effects of policies and actions and tracking performance toward mitigation goals. For example, there is an ongoing debate on whether the United States is on track to meet its goal of reducing emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. A recent study by Resources for the Future found that the United States is on track to meet its goal. However, the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2013 Annual Energy Outlook expects carbon dioxide emissions to be only 9 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 as a result of policies currently in place. This difference in findings reflects differences in assumptions about the emissions impacts of policies, such as performance standards for power plants and vehicle fuel efficiency standards. These variations have very real policy implications for the degree to which the United States needs to ramp up actions to meet its 2020 goal.
2 New Draft Accounting Standards
On November 21, WRI released for review the first drafts of two new GHG Protocol mitigation accounting standards – the Policies and Actions Standard and the Mitigation Goals Standard.
1) The Policies and Actions Standard
The GHG Protocol Policies and Actions Standard will help users quantify and report the GHG impacts of policies and actions. The standard is applicable to all types of policies and actions, including nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs), like energy efficiency policies, regulations and standards, emissions-trading programs, and deployment of new technologies. The standard provides guidance on how to identify the various effects that result from policies and actions and how to quantify those effects relative to a baseline scenario, either before or after implementation. The standard also provides guidance on how to monitor progress during policy implementation. (Download the full draft standard).
2) The Mitigation Goals Standard
The GHG Protocol Mitigation Goals Standard will help jurisdictions quantify emissions reductions and track progress toward national and subnational (e.g. state and city) mitigation goals. The standard is applicable to goals framed as GHG reductions from a base year (e.g. reduce emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020), reductions from a baseline (or business-as-usual) scenario (e.g. reduce emissions by 20 percent below baseline scenario emissions by 2020), reductions in emissions intensity (e.g. reduce emissions per unit of GDP by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020), and reductions to an absolute emissions level (e.g. carbon-neutrality).
The Mitigation Goals Standard provides guidance on issues such as how to design a mitigation goal (for jurisdictions that have not yet set one), how to determine baseline scenario emissions, how to account for the land-use sector, and how to monitor and evaluate progress. The standard also offers guidance on how to account for carbon offsets or credits used to meet a goal. On this issue, the standard prohibits double-counting of emission reductions between two parties and instead allows only one party – either the seller or the purchaser of the credit – to count the reduction toward their GHG mitigation goal. (Download the full draft standard).
Both draft standards were developed by three Technical Working Groups comprised of more than 100 experts between June and October 2012. The project’s Advisory Committee provided strategic input on the development of the drafts.
Provide Your Feedback on the Draft Standards
The draft standards are out for review from November 21, 2012 through January 11, 2013. After the review period, the draft standards will be revised based on comments received, then pilot tested in several countries in mid-2013. The standards will be circulated for a public comment period in late 2013 before being published in early 2014.
WRI welcomes comments from all interested parties. To provide your feedback, please download the draft standards and use the comment templates available on our website (listed in the "Background Documents" section). Please send all feedback by email to Jared Finnegan at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, January 11, 2013.
Photo credit: Flickr/Dennison Uy